Developing Smart Public Wi-Fi in South Africa

With smartphones becoming increasingly available, even amongst lower income groups, and having the computing power and screen size needed for meaningful internet use, one promising solution to low internet access is free public Wi-Fi sponsored by the local authority. Provinces and cities in South Africa are starting to invest in coverage of underserviced areas and in their central business districts. Research ICT Africa conducted a supply and demand side assessment of public Wi-Fi initiative in South Africa in 2016.

There are various models of public Wi-Fi throughout South Africa‚Äôs four largest metropolitan areas: Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni (in Gauteng), and Cape Town (in Western Cape). But in early 2016, only two – Gauteng and Western Cape – have implemented assessable initiatives since these are the wealthiest provinces and are highly urbanised. The project mapped the various supply side models and the impact of accessing public Wi-Fi through user surveys on Tshwane and Western Cape Wi-Fi models.

The results, in terms of network deployment have been impressive. The content portal and programme to generate local video have illustrated the potential for Wi-Fi and broadband to enhance employment opportunities and deliver health and education services from government. The user surveys revelaed the impressive demand for educational activities opportunities for employment. The different models of supply and dynamics of demand studied can be read here.

Authors: C. Geerdts, A. Gillwald, E. Calandro, C. Chair, M.Moyo and B. Rademan.